It really shouldn't be this difficult to make a good movie for Hong Kong star Chow Yun-Fat. Despite having an extremely successful and legendary career in Hong Kong cinema (and on-screen presence to spare), Yun-Fat's American-made movies have been exercises in style-over-substance. While Yun-Fat's "Replacement Killers" had an overdose of style, it lacked substance. "Bulletproof Monk" comes up lacking in both catagories. The actor needs to work with some of the more well-known directors of our time, not music video directors who are making their feature debut (as Paul Hunter is here).
The film starts in Tibet, where a young Monk (Yun-Fat) has escaped his home, which was attacked by Nazis seeking a scroll that makes its reader all-powerful. Years later, his time with the scroll is almost up, and he seeks a replacement holder. In a New York City subway, he runs across Kar (Seann William Scott), a pick-pocket who he sees potential in. It's only a matter of time before Strucker (Karel Roden), the Nazi who tracked the Monk down before, tries to find him again. So begins a series of fight scenes, as Kar and the Monk try to defend the scroll against Strucker and his men. The movie throws in a love interest for Kar in Jade (Jamie King).
There's really little to say about the plot of "Bulletproof Monk". Monk gets scroll, Monk defends scroll with help of wise-cracking thief. There's the two-sentence pitch. Oh - and I forgot - Monk doesn't realize that he could destroy said scroll if guarding it seems like it's going to turn into an eternal struggle.
Particularly disappointing is the fact that Yun-Fat is saddled with some of the worst lines I've ever heard. The character offers constant philosophy along the lines of, "Why do hot dogs come in packages of 10, when buns come in packages of 8?" Scott simply plays a less obnoxious - and, as a result, less funny - version of his "American Pie" character. Jamie King isn't given much to do. The film doesn't even get the fight scenes right. Although some of them boast moderately enjoyable choreography, most of them are enhanced by mediocre CGI effects. Yes, it's another "Matrix"-style rip-off. Given how bored I was throughout this movie, I pondered what it would be like if Chow Yun-Fat starred in the "Matrix" movies. Pretty cool, I'd think.
Some will say that it's just an adaptation of a comic book and that nothing that much should be expected out of it. I didn't expect that much, I didn't even get that. The movie isn't funny, isn't exciting, has little in the way of story and doesn't even have much of a visual style. I've said it before and I guess I'll have to keep saying it - Chow Yun-Fat deserves much better. A complete disappointment.
VIDEO: "Bulletproof Monk" is presented in 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen by MGM. The picture quality is generally passable. Sharpness and detail are satisfactory, as the picture remained crisp, but lacked much depth and fine details. Sometimes, it could look a little on the soft side, too.
A few minor problems occured along the way, as well. Light edge enhancement appeared in a few scenes, while a couple of slight specks were noticed on the print. No pixelation or other artifacts were noticed. Colors were fine, as the film's rather low-key color palette seemed accurately rendered.
SOUND: "Bulletproof Monk" is presented in Dolby Digital 5.1. Those expecting an agressive surround-sound experience will be disappointed with this presentation. While there are certainly some (although not that many) moments where sound effects are offered by the rears, the film's sound activity seems a little obvious and uninspired. Audio quality is fine, but nothing too remarkable; there's some mild bass at times and dialogue as well as sound effects remain clear.
EXTRAS: 2 audio commentaries - one by director Paul Hunter and producers Charles Roven and Douglas Segal; the other by writers Ethan Reill and Cyrus Voris. The DVD also includes the featurettes "The Tao of Monk", "The Monk Unrobed", an alternate ending, 5 deleted scenes (w/editor commentary), photo gallery, soundtrack spot, trailer, trailers for "Bulletproof Monk" (hopefully, it'll make for a better videogame than movie) and "Great Escape" video games.
Final Thoughts: I've seen worse, but not lately. "Bulletproof Monk" is a boring, unfunny action/comedy that seemed endless. MGM's DVD offers fine audio/video and lots of supplements. Still, not recommended.